Senate frustrates Government’s push to pass Native Title Bill

Traditional Owners fighting Adani heartened by Senate’s defence of native title, deferred vote on changes

Despite the Prime Minister recently reassuring billionaire Gautam Adani that he will ‘fix’ native title laws to enable Adani’s controversial mine to go ahead, the Turnbull Government failed in the Senate again today, with its Native Title Amendment Bill being pushed off to June.

Senior spokesperson for the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Council, Burragubba, said “The Senate blew the Government’s cover on the false urgency it has been relying on to push the Bill through. It is clear that there is no immediate threat to Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs) from the recent Federal Court McGlade decision.

“The Wangan and Jagalingou Council are heartened that our right to object to a land use agreement over our lands, because our common law native title is threatened with extinguishment, has gained recognition in the Federal Parliament.

“Opposition and Greens Senators spoke clearly and strongly about the need to put the native title rights of Traditional Owners ahead of all other interests, including mining, when making changes to the Native Title Act.

“The Opposition rightly castigated the Government’s contempt for native title and for greatly exaggerating the urgency for changes. It described consultations with Traditional Owners as inept.

“With the Bill now delayed until the June sitting of Parliament we can make sure our concerns are properly heard in the native title debate. Important native title reform should occur with a much higher degree of respect and regard for the rights of Traditional Owners than the incompetent farce this Government has dished up”, he said.

During debate on the Bill in the Senate, the W&J Council’s strong interests in the native title changes were acknowledged. So too were the several legal actions we have underway against Adani Mining’s purported ILUA, and the issuing of mining leases by the Queensland Government, in a dishonest attempt to override our refusal to surrender our native title.

Youth spokesperson for the W&J Traditional Owners Council, Ms Murrawah Johnson, said, “The Government has again failed to pass the changes to the Native Title Act it has been seeking in its clamour to back the Adani mine.

“The Coalition has worked furiously to fast-track these amendments to overturn the recent McGlade decision in the Federal Court, which render Adani’s purported land use agreement incapable of registration.

“The Turnbull government has treated our native title as worthless and ignored the wishes of the Australian people in trying to push through this bill. We have had immense support from thousands of Australians who have implored the Parliament not to mess with our rights and those of Traditional Owners around the country.

“This reflects a recent national poll which showed that nearly two-thirds of Australians believe that where Traditional Owners are opposed to Adani’s mine being being built on their lands, State and Federal governments should wait for consent rather than push ahead with the mine.

“The Senate made it clear this bill shouldn’t be about a coal mine, that it is about the rights of Traditional Owners to their lands and waters. Quite rightly, Labor and the crossbench have rejected the Government’s attempts to ram these changes through without proper consultation and consent,” she said.

For more information and to arrange interviews:

Anthony Esposito, W&J Council advisor – 0418 152 743.

BACKGROUND

List of legal cases:

1. Adani ILUA. Federal Court: Delia Kemppi & Ors v Adani Mining Pty Ltd & Ors. Application for a declaration. Directions hearing, 18 May 2017.

2. Carmichael Mining Lease. Qld Court of Appeal: Adrian Burragubba & Ors v Minister for Natural Resources and Mines & Ors. Appeal hearing, 11 May 2017.

3. NNTT authorisation. Federal Court: Adrian Burragubba v State of Queensland & Ors. Full bench Appeal. Decision pending.

4. S66B. Federal Court: Adrian Burragubba & Ors on Behalf of the Wangan and Jagalingou Peoples v State of Queensland & Ors. Appeal. Directions hearing pending.

Native Title Amendment Bill & the McGlade decision:

The Native Title Amendment (Indigenous Land Use Agreements) Bill 2017 is designed to overturn the Federal Court Full Bench McGlade decision, which upheld the Native Title Act requirement that all applicants are needed to sign a land use agreement, after members of the Noongar peoples went to the Federal Court over failures in the process involving a $1.3B settlement agreement with the WA government.

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